Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick… Paul Etheredge’s Buried Alive.
What a mess. What a complete mess.
Buried Alive is basically exactly what it sounds like, but worse. We follow seven students. Five of them having been buried alive inside of strange makeshift coffins and the other two being on the outside trying to find them. There’s a bit of a mystery as to who exactly it is that’s captured and sealed five people inside of their supposed tombs, but it doesn’t really seem to matter. Will solving this case and figuring out who the captor is actually help them free these people? No, probably not.
Let me start off by telling you what I actually liked about this movie, because it’s a much shorter list. This is a found footage film and while that may be a detractor for some, I thought the aesthetic worked for what they were trying to do. Each person’s tomb had a camera inside and the kidnapper would occasionally watch them all on monitors. As far as the look of the film I liked this choice. It helped add a gritty and realistic quality. There are some logic leaps when it comes to why the outside characters are carrying the camera and why every relevant moment they flash back to just happened to have been caught on camera, but I’d be willing to forgive those things. It’s the genre, and you sort of have to leave your suspension of disbelief at the door with found footage and “why are they filming this” moments. For what it’s worth, the movie looks pretty real.
In addition, the set decorations for the caskets that each of the students are encased in are really creepy. Each one is totally unique and in truth I only refer to them as caskets because I don’t know what else to call them. The one filled with baby doll heads stands out, but each environment is very claustrophobic and uncomfortable. Nailing this aspect is important too, since we spend so much time there. It can get boring real fast, so making them look interesting goes a long way.
With that out of the way, everything else about this movie is terrible. It’s a tough concept. Creating a contained thriller where your characters are stuck in one location is really hard to pull off and requires some damn fine writing and acting, but this movie seriously drops the ball in both regards. The film wants you to care about this mystery. It wants you to be invested in discovering why they ended up where they did. Unfortunately, as the backstory progresses and we start to get some clues that may help us understand what’s going on we also learn a bit about who these characters are. Every one of them is an awful human being. All of our flashbacks just show them all being terrible to each other or picking on another side character that just screams “red herring” from the moment he appears. The mystery doesn’t matter if I can’t connect with the people that it effects. We know from the beginning that they’re awful, so why does it matter which specific terrible thing they did got them stuck there?
Even if we did care about the characters though, the writing is just not good. The mystery is cliche and there are some serious leaps in logic. I’ve already mentioned some of the found footage related problems when it comes to everything being caught on film, but that’s far from the most egregious of issues. First off, one of the caskets is revealed to be placed in a location that makes absolutely no sense. It’s incredibly public and while I’ll buy that it could possibly be set there without anyone happening upon it, I don’t for a second believe that the kidnapper would take that risk. Also, we’re told that this is all being broadcast live on the kidnapper’s personal website. This is the absolute dumbest thing he could do since it would lead anyone with half a brain directly to him. I get that he’s watching the girl that’s trying to piece everything together, but she doesn’t even try to use that. Bring it to the police. Hell, bring it to certain parts of Reddit and you could get someone to track down this dude’s computer. Once again, I’ll almost buy that she doesn’t do these things, but I can’t accept that the kidnapper would take this risk. He’s leaving himself way too open to being captured or thwarted.Another major downfall of this film is the editing. It’s incredibly choppy and poorly paced because of it. We open with seemingly random scenes of kidnap and torture before getting around to any kind of plot. After that we cut back and forth between the students stuck in boxes, the outside characters trying to figure it all out, and flashbacks that show everyone hanging out and being terrible. It takes a little while to get settled, but the whole movie feels really rough around the edges. I suppose that sort of works with the found footage thing, but the weird pace and way the shots jump back and forth just feels unfinished. It’s as if this were a first pass and they never want back to smooth things out.
Buried Alive is not a movie that you should watch. They worked on a low budget and tried to make a contained thriller, but the pieces just didn’t fit together. This is a choppy uneven mess with unlikable characters and a cliche mystery tying it all together. Aesthetically it looks kind of creepy at parts, but it feels like the filmmakers cared more about spooky imagery than about actually making a compelling story.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.